- 07 Aug 18
A report has been issued today by the NUIG Smart Content Research team, which confirms that Irish students are unhappy with the sex education they received in school. Looked at from an LGBT perspective, the situation is even worse...
In a survey of 2,150 students, carried out by the NUIG Smart Content Research team, the results of which were released today, 71% of women and 63% of men said they were not satisfied with the sex education they received at school.
If you break down these numbers and focus solely on LGBT participants, the numbers are even more dramatic. Just 15% of the queer community are ‘happy' with sex education in Ireland. This simply isn’t good enough.
I know that from bitter experience.
Back in school, my sexual education was dire. I attended an all boys Catholic school called St Mary's, in Lucan. The only memory I have is of staring at a picture that vaguely resembled the outline of a person. The speaker held the pointer, gesturing towards the figure’s genital region, not even using the words “vagina” or “penis”.
The word consent was never mentioned.
Neither was the word gay.
I was thirteen when I received this lesson and I knew there was something different about me than the other boys. I waited for some sort of possible enlightenment from the speaker, some guidance, some acknowledgment – but alas, none came.
The result of all of this is that young people in Ireland are heading out into the adult world without any understanding of the importance of practising sex that is not only safe, but consensual.
In a way, being ignored in school led me to thinking that my way of life didn’t matter or that it should be tucked away – never to be spoken about.
As I was heading into my teenage years, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do when the time came. I found myself asking, “What about me? Do I not belong?”
I had to rely on television shows and Google to teach me what went where and how to navigate the gay world. Modern media painted an elaborate and glamorous life for the gay man: a never-ending sequence of parties, sex, colour, and dancing.
When I entered into a gay club for the first time, this is what I expected to find. That I would feel pleasure and euphoria. I didn’t think that a gentleman, a few years my senior, who approached me and began to grope me would leave me feeling dirty and violated.
Maybe this was just how gay people treated each other? How they showed interest?
The approach had made me feel extremely uncomfortable. He hadn’t even told me his name, yet he felt as if he could acquaint himself with that part of me.
Perhaps I deserved it, I thought. For being here. For wanting to be a part of the gay scene. This is what always happens – so I need to just accept it and get on with it.
Except I shouldn't.
Looking back, had the speaker in my school mentioned about being gay, and how different gay sexual activity can be and very often is, I would have had the confidence to handle this situation differently. I could have experienced that moment, knowing that what the man did was wrong – and not wondering whether I was just being a prude.
Sex education has to be inclusive for all. It has to shake off the shackles of the Catholic Church and acknowledge the age we live in. The old cloistered way of approaching things has done enough damage as it is.
Young LGBT children need to know that they belong. People need to feel valued and safe. As the NUIG survey confirms, we need sex education reform. And we need it now...
Note: The Department of Education has ordered a review of what the curriculum describes as Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE). The review will cover both the content of the RSE curriculum, but also crucially its presentation in schools. The review is being carried out by the National Council on Curriculum and Assessment. The aim is to change the curriculum, if necessary, to take into account the needs “of young people today."